Sunday, April 20, 2014

Station 16 by Hermann & Yves H.

I'll tell you I'm quite surprised to see an uprise in the number of English translations we get for European comics, or bande dessinées (BD). Why is this surprising though? Well I haven't seen many translated European works in the past years, let alone uncensored translated works. So kudos to the publishers who take the gamble. Of course we have all those Humanoids publications. Humanoids who have recently even moved their headquarters from Paris Los Angeles and also opened a branche in London. They mean serious business, and show this is a profitable business too... The larger publishers though seem a little wary about getting into translations of BD's. But as Humanoids proves there definitely is a market for translated works. And why wouldn't there be? I mean the market for BD's is at least as diverse as comics and graphic novels originally written and published in English.
So where the larger publishers leave a gap, smaller publishers, such as SelfMadeHero, Drawn & Quarterly, Titan Comics and Fantagraphics jump in bringing (even more) diversity to the market. To give you an idea of the announced titles for 2014 by some of these and other publishers I suggest you take a look at Eurocomics USA Invasion's Facebook page. Of the larger publishers Dark Horse seems to have jumped onto the bandwagon too. They gave us translations of Blacksad, Milo Manara stories and Jeremiah to name a few. The last one there is by Hermann, of which Dark Horse has recently announced they will also translate "Blood Ties", "Manhattan Beach 1957" and "The Girl From Ipanema" and publish these stories in one book aptly titled "Trilogy USA". These stories are a little older, which makes it all the more surprising they also announced Hermann's latest "Station 16", that saw a French released in January 2014. I really enjoyed reading Station 16 in Dutch, so I decided I'd write a review right away to get you all excited for the Dark Horse release in October.

Station 16 is an abandoned outpost on Nova Zembla, a Russian island in the Arctic Sea. During the Cold War (1955-1990) the Russians used Nova Zembla to perform nuclear tests intensively. Not just random tests, no... tests with the power 4,000 times more powerful than the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II. This Tsar Bomba had the power of 50 megatons, compared to 15 kilotons for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The heaviest bomb the USA used was the Castle Bravo in 1954 with a weight of 'just' 15 megaton. There's a lot more information about Nova Zembla, nuclear bombs and the Cold War in the back of Station 16. The purpose for this is to illustrate how Yves H. (Hermann's son and author of Station 16) got the idea for the story of this forgotten piece of Russian polar region.

Now on with the book, but before that, to get you into the mood, check out the book's video trailer.

Station 16 starts in 1997 Severnaja, Nova Zembla, when new recruit Grisjka gets a distress call from weather station 16. The sergeant is suspicious though, since weather station 16 has been abandoned for half a century. The distress call sounded disturbing though so the sergeant, Grisjka and two other men take the helicopter the next morning and fly out to station 16 to see what's going on. During the flight the weather changes and the helicopter gets into trouble, almost crashing into a mountain. Luckily it lands safely on the ground. The four men head out into the snowstorm to investigate the weather station that indeed seems to be completely abandoned. What they find is a lot of dust, empty bullet shells an old Stalin poster, but most of all they find nothing. However they also find an operation room, dried up blood. What happened here?! Furthermore they find a radio. They're baffled and don't understand what radio was used to make the distress call, since this dust covered radio seems to not have been used for over 50 years and it's the only one they found.

Back outside in the snowstorm they decide the station is abandoned. Heading back to the helicopter suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the snow storm is gone and the northern light is visible. This is the moment when inexplainable things start to happen. The helicopter seems to have disappeared into thin air without having made a single noise. And when they turn around looking back at weather station the lights inside the cabins they just investigated have flicked on. Suddenly it doesn't look abandoned anymore. What on earth is going on? The four men decide to go back to the station to investigate further. But is that a smart thing to do? What happened in that operation room? What's in the jars they found? And whose dried up blood was it that they found earlier? Will the helicopter return and will they make it back to Severnaja?

This book by Hermann and Yves H. is one very special book. Yves H. is a writer here that knows how to draw you into the story and piles mystery upon mystery. Page by page you are wondering what is going on and what the given clues will lead to. What will the men (and you as a reader) discover. Piling up clues and mysteries like this could lead to an unsatisfactory ending. Not here though... the end is well... it's... I'll tell you it's quite scary and horrific!

Hermann also does a pretty good job here. He knows how to set the scene with his beautiful paintings. Hermann creates these drawings that leave you anguished. The vast empty spaces, a nuclear explosion, a snowstorm, hungry for human flesh polar bears, jars that contain human parts, blood etc. etc. There is just too much to applaud. I'm not sure if this is his best work, but it's still pretty damned good.

Dark Horse have a winner on their hands! Station 16 is a book you will cherish. A book like this doesn't come around very often. It's based off of historical events, but it adds some twisted mysteries that in the end will leave you anguished and horrified. Highly recommended!
Station 16 will be published by Dark Horse in October 2014 | $24.99 | ISBN: 9781616554811

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